FDA says Blue Bell knew about listeria two years ago

The Food and Drug Administration says Blue Bell Creameries knew about listeria bacteria in its Oklahoma facility two years ago and did not report it. Last month the company recalled all of its products after the bacteria was linked to three deaths and sickened seven others.

According to the FDA companies are required to report it if they find a reasonable probability that the food could make people sick but often companies don't report it.

All three production plants in Texas, Oklahoma and Alabama remain closed as the company cleans, sanitizes and makes upgrades. It could be several months before ice cream products are back in store freezers.

According to the FDA report investigators found food safety issues in all three plants. Some of the violations range from dirty equipment to inadequate food storage and condensation dripping into food.

"It's the heart of this town and means everything to everyone and everyone is upset but we are looking to the future for it to re-open and it will be a whole new start," said Bea Leal who lives in Brenham.

While the parking lot is full outside the Brenham plant Blue Bell employees are not making ice cream instead they are going through training and helping sanitize and steam clean equipment.

"Our standard procedure is to stop, clean and sanitize and then re-swab the area. When we get a negative test we feel like we are good about operating again. In hindsight we can see now that wasn't always adequate," said Joe Robertson, a spokesperson for Blue Bell.

"We thought maybe they were on top of it when they first heard but a lot of companies make mistakes but that doesn't mean we should shut them out," said Nancy Bastian, a loyal Blue Bell supporter.

Blue Bell is in the process of preparing a detailed response to the FDA inspection observations.

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